Friday, November 27, 2015

Who buys ISIS oil? (UPDATE)

In a previous post, we noted that ISIS-brand oil is being sold to Bilal Erdogan, the son of Turkey's thuggish leader Recep Erdogan. Since Turkey is our ally, the United States has done nothing that might impede the profits flowing to the Erdogan crime family. Instead, this government has shut down any of Erdogan's competitors. This is classic gangsterism.

Our previous post on this topic linked to one story which suggested that Bilal was selling ISIS oil to Israel. I was cautious in accepting this claim because the source material seemed a bit iffy. Now we have more, from the London-based newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. A few excerpts:
But who buys it? Who finances the murderous brutality that has taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria? How does it get from the ground to the petrol tank, and who profits along the way?
IS sells Iraqi and Syrian oil for a very low price to Kurdish and Turkish smuggling networks and mafias, who label it and sell it on as barrels from the Kurdistan Regional Government.

It is then most frequently transported from Turkey to Israel, via knowing or unknowing middlemen, according to al-Araby's investigation.
Al-Araby has obtained information about how IS smuggles oil from a colonel in the Iraqi Intelligence Services who we are keeping anonymous for his security.

The information was verified by Kurdish security officials, employees at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, and an official at one of three oil companies that deal in IS-smuggled oil.

The Iraqi colonel, who along with US investigators is working on a way to stop terrorist finance streams, told al-Araby about the stages that the smuggled oil goes through from the points of extraction in Iraqi oil fields to its destination - notably including the port of Ashdod, Israel.
Once inside Turkey, IS oil is indistinguishable from oil sold by the Kurdistan Regional Government, as both are sold as "illegal", "source unknown" or "unlicensed" oil.
After paying drivers, middlemen and bribes, IS' profit is $15 to $18 a barrel. The group currently makes $19 million on average each month, according to the intelligence officer.
In August, the Financial Times reported that Israel obtained up to 75 percent of its oil supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan. More than a third of such exports go through the port of Ceyhan.
According to a European official at an international oil company who met with al-Araby in a Gulf capital, Israel refines the oil only "once or twice" because it does not have advanced refineries. It exports the oil to Mediterranean countries - where the oil "gains a semi-legitimate status" - for $30 to $35 a barrel.

"The oil is sold within a day or two to a number of private companies, while the majority goes to an Italian refinery owned by one of the largest shareholders in an Italian football club [name removed] where the oil is refined and used locally," added the European oil official.

"Israel has in one way or another become the main marketer of IS oil. Without them, most IS-produced oil would have remained going between Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Even the three companies would not receive the oil if they did not have a buyer in Israel," said the industry official.
Apparently, "oil laundering" is a thing.

Yes, I know that this article relies on non-named sources; nevertheless, I find this highly-detailed report persuasive. If America were serious about defeating the Islamic state, the buyers of ISIS oil -- including Italy, France and Israel -- would face serious consequences.

Update: What the money pays for. As it turns out, religion does not motivate most ISIS conscripts in Syria. It's all about money. Many people in ISIS-controlled regions are destitute, and ISIS pays very well by local standards: $700 to $900 a month, in a region where one can rent a house for $50 a month.
According to Abu Khaled, a large number of people are joining ISIS because they need money. After joining the militants, people are paid in US dollars instead of Syrian liras.
Emphasis added. Take note of that.
"There is no work, so you have to join them in order to live," al-Jassem told the Post. "So many local people have joined them. They were pushed into Daesh by hunger."

According to Newsweek, there is a widening gap in living standards for those under ISIS rule. Members of the organization have access to food, free medical care, and desirable housing. In contrast, people who aren't ISIS members suffer under a barely functioning economy with rapidly increasing prices.
You should read the rest; it's a fascinating article -- marred by one bullshit paragraph:
ISIS can afford to pay people seeking to join its ranks through four main sources of income: oil, the sale of looted antiquities, taxation, and kidnapping ransoms.

There isn't much tax money to squeeze out of the impoverished. Syrian peasants do not pay their taxes in U.S dollars.

"Kidnapping for ransom" refers to the hostages from other countries, some of whom we have seen in those horrifying videos. Yes, some countries do pay; no, the cash cannot amount to that much.

As we have seen in a previous post, no museum or major art buyer is going to pay big bucks for a piece with an iffy or nonexistent provenance, because the Getty scandal and similar controversies have put the fear of God into the art world.

The NYT (not a reliable source, thanks to its flagrant pro-neocon bias) says that ISIS makes around $40 million a month from oil; as we have seen, the actual amount is probably half of that figure. Oil brings in a lot of money -- maybe $250 million a year -- but not enough to fund all of those soldiers. (There are at least 100,000 paid ISIS fighters; you can do the math.)

The rest comes from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This is the great fact of modern politics which the American media hates most to admit.

Yes, ISIS is not just about terrorism, it's about jobs. Like I posted in the comments section a few days ago...Grab a book or grab a gun, which one is more of a sure thing for an adolescent reaching adulthood in many parts of the Middle East.

Then the other gotcha is, the more we fight ISIS, the more we leave guns behind. That's the thing about war, as soldiers are killed their guns are taken and given a new home with the opposing side. So amping up war against ISIS also means leaves guns behind as casualties mount.
With "friends" like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the lesser oil states of the Arabian Peninsula, and Israel, the USA needs no enemies. :P
Obviously they aren't selling to the Louvre, but then no-one reputable would by The Scream, that didn't stop someone stealing it and probably selling it privately to some Arab bigwig.
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